Thursday, October 16, 2008

Concert Review: The Old 97s

Saw the Old 97s last night at the Blue Note here in Columbia. I don’t own any of their cds (although I do have several of their songs on my iTunes). They are from Dallas so I’ve been hearing about them for years. They have a Ticket (Sports Radio 1310) connection, so that made me even more familiar with them. It would be hard to describe the style of music they play. They are described as “alt-country” but I bet they are tired of that label by now. I hear elements of The Replacements (power pop), Dick Dale (surf rock guitarist) and Johnny Cash (country-rock). They’re the kind of band that makes me miss living in Texas.
They are a fun band to see live. High energy throughout the show, sometimes cruising along at a break neck pace. Both Rhett Miller (lead vocals) and Murry Hammond (bass and vocals) are capable song writers with Murry’s contributions more on the country side. (He also looks like Stephen King from afar). They are a tight outfit with Ken Bethea (lead guitar) and Phil Peeples (drums) rounding out the combo.
At one time, they were on the verge of a breakthrough with the power pop tinged cd “Satellite Rides” but they never made that move. One of the songs you might have heard from The Old 97s would be “The Question.” I am not a romantic, love song kind of guy, but this song is a great, sentimental song about a guy proposing to his girl ("Someday somebody's gonna ask you/the question that you should say yes to..." heard on “Scrubs”). Two of my favorite songs did not make the set list (King of the World and Murder (or a Heart Attack)).
Highlights of the evening for me were “I Will Remain”, “Doreen”, “Victoria, aka Victoria Lee” and “Bel Air.” Another highlight was the slow, sad Hammond number “Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue” off their new cd. They played most of their new release “Blame It on Gravity.” A lot of good numbers on that cd. Perfect show closer was “Timebomb” which fast paced, energetic and left the crowd in a frenzy wanting another encore. Here is the set list for the show.

1. The Fool *
2. Lonely Holiday *
3. Melt Snow *
4. No Baby I *
5. Crash on the Barrelhead *
6. Designs on You *
7. I Will Remain *
8. The New Kid *
9. Doreen *
10. Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue *
11. Question *
12. Niteclub *
13. Indefinitely *
14. Victoria *
15. Smoker *
16. My Two Feet *
17. Bel Air
18. Barrier Reef *
19. Rollerskate Skinny *
20. The Easy Way *
21. Stoned *
22. Won’t Be Home *
23. Dance with Me *
24. Time Bomb *

The opening band was The Spring Standards, a pop-Americana type band with a few blues tinged notes. A trio with tight harmonies. An odd stage layout, imagine the drum kit scattered across the front of the stage with each member playing a bit of the kit as well as their own instrument. Acoustic guitar player was tapping along on the pedal of the cymbals. The keyboard player had a snare drum in front of her as well as a melodica. The bass player was pedaling the bass drum as well. Pleasant group whose country roots got the crowd ready for the 97s.


later said...

I saw Rhett solo in NYC once. He was ok but needed the band. He kept doing that seemless, circular guitar strum and it got old.
But yes, had some good tunes.

billy v said...

That is funny because he did the same thing here with the strum.